Following the MCH Group announcement, the Art Basel Hong Kong satellite fair Art Central followed suit, announcing the cancelation of its 2020 edition, slated to run concurrently in late March.
Even before the WHO made its declaration, some of Art Basel in Hong Kong’s participating galleries had urged
the fair’s organizers to cancel this year’s edition, others demanded 50 percent discounts
on booth fees, and three galleries dropped out
last month. Art Basel had said
it would refund the booth fees charged to galleries by at least 75 percent in the event the fair had to be canceled; a spokesperson for the fair confirmed to Artsy
that exhibitors will receive a 75 percent refund.
The fair’s cancelation is not entirely unprecedented. In 2001, Art Basel canceled what would have been the inaugural edition of its Miami Beach fair in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. However, the cancelation of the Hong Kong fair comes at a particularly inopportune time for Art Basel’s parent company, MCH Group, which has struggled
with plummeting attendance at its marquee watch and jewelry fair, Baselworld, and abandoned
its plans to acquire regional art fairs around the world. In October, MCH Group responded to its falling profits by eliminating a division of its business and restructuring
. In November, Art Basel canceled
a planned three-day conference in Abu Dhabi, tickets for which had been priced at $15,000. In December, MCH Group denied
rumors it was looking to sell Art Basel.
Museums in China and Hong Kong have closed indefinitely
and either postponed or outright canceled planned exhibitions and events in light of the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
The next edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong will take place in 2021, from March 25th to March 27th.
Update: February 7th, 2020
This article has been updated to include the news of Art Central’s cancelation.